As 2017 gets started, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: The days of the Android tablet form factor are numbered. Its not that the Android experience on tablets will kill them – which is pretty poor to be fair – but rather the flood of Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices that are set to hit the market this year. 2017 will be the year that Chrome OS takes off for good with a wide range of form factors expected to be release and the much anticipated support of Android apps on the platform in Chrome 56. The latter is due within days and the former, with the likes of Samsung’s new Chromebooks, will set the stage for a transformative year.
The push for the tablet form factor came fundamentally from Apple. With the launch of the iPad, it suddenly became a tool by which you could get more things done on a larger screen. Add to that portability and a lower cost, generally, than a laptop and you set the stage for a form factor that seemingly many wanted. But for all the might of Apple, the iPad has never really taken hold. Samsung, HTC and Google themselves have had the same struggles. They brought the conveniences of a mobile Operating System and the associated apps but equally, they brought limitations that users did not experience on laptops. It was, as if, they were a stop-gap measure until a proper merger of a desktop OS and a mobile OS could take place.
That merger is happening now with Chrome OS and Android.
Android apps running in Chrome will be more than just a stop gap. You will get the benefits of an app ecosystem along with the power and productivity of a desktop OS. Is it perfect? No but it is a far cry better than having two completely desparent solutions to meet your productivity and entertainment needs.
I suspect that my usage of my Nexus 9 Android tablet is similar to many of you. I like the tablet but 90% of my use of it is for entertainment: Games, movie watching and social networking. Rarely do I use it for productivity, even with the solid Google productivity apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides. The only time I really use it for productivity is when I’m on an airplane, in coach, crammed into a little seat with little room to pull out a 14″ Chromebook to work. If I’m in business class or First class, the Chromebook is always the weapon of choice to get things done. So the question becomes, if I had my entertainment on a slate or convertible Chrome OS-based device, would I need a tablet? The answer, in my mind, is a resounding no.